Today is January 1, 2020. To others that haven’t been touched by loss it’s a start to new year, new hopes and happy beginnings. To parents that have lost a child it’s one more year that you didn’t have your child with you. This year is a pretty significant year for us, not only is it a new decade that Drew isn’t in but 2020 will be 5 years that he has been gone. Gosh, 5 years sounds so long, but it feels so short.
Last year I chose a word for the new year in the hopes that when my mind was swirling I could use it as a mantra of sorts. I decided to do the same thing for this year, my word for 2020 is BALANCE. Finding balance in my life with work, kids, marriage, self-care and Smiles From Drew. Making sure that I can be all to everyone that needs me including myself. I tend to go all in on something and it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other things. That is how I have been working Smiles the last few years.
This past week I’ve been thinking of what Balance will mean to me and how to handle that with such a pivotal year in grief. That thought then got me on the track of the number 5 and what does it mean…so that got me on Google to find out. So here is what I found:
Five as an angel number means balance. The website suggests to put your life in balance because you are always in motion and need to slow down. It means keeping a balance between the material things and the spiritual realm.
It wasn’t long after I lost Drew that I knew that having an outlet to be able to get all the words out of my head was what I wanted to do. That is when I decided to start this blog. I wrote more in the beginning because I had more swirling thoughts. I did the posts more for me than anything else but my hope was always that if one person read them they would know they weren’t alone.
A few months ago I started listening to podcasts on my way to work. I first found The Kindness podcast. The podcast interviews all types of people that are trying to make difference in the world by spreading kindness in one way or another. I started searching for other podcasts that I found interesting. I started listening to the Grief Out Loud podcast and the What’s Your Grief podcast. I loved listening to the episodes since they discussed topics of grief and I somehow did not feel quite so alone in my feelings and thoughts.
I decided to email The Kindness podcast to tell them my story about Drew and Smiles from Drew and she emailed me back! Nicole Philips is the host and she wanted to interview me! I was so excited and nervous. We scheduled the interview and they called and I got the chance to talk about Drew and Smiles, it was wonderful. That is when I got the idea that I can start a podcast interviewing parents telling us about their children that have gone on before us. Give them a space to talk about them, talk about their life before, and talk about their life after.
Like any endeavor I have started since Drew died I just jump right in. If I don’t know how to do it, I just keep figuring it out. I’ve been researching microphones, software, and how to post podcasts. I had an idea in my head and just went for it. I’m so close to start interviewing other parents and getting the podcasts live.
I will be changing the name of this site that I blog on, the name of this website will be www.say-their-name.com. I will still be writing blog posts about Drew but I will also post the episodes of the podcast on here also. I sure hope you can join me on this adventure and we can hear all the great stories from parents that have lost children, giving parents a chance to Say Their Name.
I’m not sure what brought it on but Tuesday I felt like I had been covered in this heavy blanket of grief. I was sitting at my computer at work and realized I had tears running down my face. I really can’t pinpoint the “trigger” for this it was just the overwhelming feeling of missing my boy. I came home that night and my wonderful husband and Molly Moo Moo had made me a cake. I hadn’t even told them that I was feeling an emotional wreck.
So many of his friends are getting married, having kids, and starting their careers. They are adults now. Life goes on but Drew is forever 20. He will always be in that grey area of teenage-hood and adulthood. He never got to get his first apartment or his first “new” car. When I think of these things I really realize how much we lost with losing Drew.
Thursday I was just having a hard day, my lupus was flaring up and I just was in pain. I left work early so I could go home and take a warm bath and try to feel better. On my way home I had to stop at Tractor Supply so I could get some adhesive bandages to wrap my hands in. Madison had told me a few days before that we needed to get the cats a different cat food that doesn’t have grain in it. The food she wanted to get them was quite expensive and I thought to myself that I would just check the prices of the food at Tractor Supply. I go to the cat food aisle and sitting right there on the shelf with the cat food was this stuffed animal squirrel, and it just happen to be sitting on the cheapest bag of grain free food. I stood in the aisle what seemed like forever just staring at this squirrel. There weren’t any other stuffed animals around that area. Just this lone squirrel on top of the cat food. After my initial shock of seeing this squirrel, I broke out into the biggest smile. I realized this squirrel was not there by accident. This squirrel was put there as sign from my awesome boy. He knew I needed to feel him near me.
Of course I bought this squirrel and brought him home. I set him on the counter and laid down in bed. Randall and Molly came home and Molly “checked” in on my me. Then she went to the kitchen and noticed the squirrel. She was so happy to have her own “Bubba” squirrel. The “Bubba” squirrels name is Fuzzy Wuzzy. It’s funny after I would cut Drew’s hair, I would rub his head and call him my Fuzzy Wuzzy. So that 1 stuffed squirrel gave me the feeling of Drew near me but also gave Molly a connection to her brother.
I was walking into work on Friday and there were quite a few people walking in also. This lady was walking out and the gentleman asked her where she was going. She hollered over her shoulder that her kids school just called and they were closing because of the snow. I asked him “she said her kids school was closing”, as I had just dropped Molly off at school. He said yea but she lives up North. I told him Molly goes to Turquoise Trail and I will have to keep an eye on whether they will close early. He mentioned his kids go to Nina Otero and they don’t usually close early. He then tells me he coaches one of the basketball teams there. I then proceed to tell him about Smiles From Drew. I tell him what we do to help the kids participate in sports and activities. I look for a card for Smiles to give to him. I tell him that we want to help more of the kids that wouldn’t ever think of joining a sport because of the money. The gentleman tells me about a little boy on his team that is like that and that he doesn’t even have shoes but he is the hardest working player on his team. Without even I thought I tell him Smiles From Drew will buy him a pair of basketball shoes.
Before Drew died I would have tossed all these encounters as just chance and with no meaning. I know all the way to my marrow that my Awesome Boy wanted me to me this man and he wanted me to talk to him and he wanted me to help this boy. They are not chance encounters. They are moments my boy is engineering so that I know what I am doing has a purpose and that what Smiles does is important. It’s important to not only to my emotional well being but it’s important to the kid we help.
I always knew my boy was destined for greatness. I would tell him all the time from the moment I held him at birth that he was going to do something great in this world. How little did I know that he wouldn’t be here to see it but he sure still has his hand in the making of it. Since I never think at the time how we are going to do what we do for the kids, I need to figure out how to pay for basketball shoes. I know that it will happen and all work out the way it is supposed to.
I’ve had this recurring thought for the past few months that there is a whole section of kids that Smiles From Drew should be helping. We have been blessed enough to help as many kids as we have but normally the kids we help are already signed up for the activity and for one reason or another they need our help. Whatever the reason they have gotten in touch with us to help with the registration fees. But what about those kids that know deep down that there is no way they would ever be able to participate? What about the kids that know that either because of finances or family life that they don’t even dare to think of signing up?
I am hoping that this year these are the children Smiles From Drew can focus on. There are so many children out there, that no matter how the parents try to shield them from the struggles know that their families couldn’t afford it. So what do those kids do? They just never say anything to their parents, they never bring home flyers about the activities. They just silently do without. I know Drew would have been that way. He was just such a caring person and if he knew there was no way I could afford it he wouldn’t even tell me about it. He would take that burden on himself. He would feel that by him not saying anything about the activity he was “helping me”. We need to get to those kids so they don’t have to take that burden on. We need to even for a moment let them be kids and not have to worry about whether or not their family could afford it.
There is a National Organization call The Aspen Institute and they study the effects of sports and social exclusion because of factors out of children’s hands. They have an initiative called Project Play. They want us to “think globally but act locally”. The focus of Project Play to date has been on children ages 6 to 12, who form the base of our sport system, with a shared vision of “an America in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports.” (https://www.aspenprojectplay.org/) The below statistics don’t take into account the demographics of the children that never get the opportunity to participate in the activities. This study just reflects the percentage of children that are participating. As you can see, in 2016 only 34.6% of children in households that income was under $25,000 were able to participate. That tells me we have a whole slew of kids that Smiles From Drew could be servicing.
My goal is to enlist people to help us find these forgotten children. School counselors, teachers, social workers, and youth leaders. These are all the people are on the front lines with these children and know when and where we can help. Reaching out to these children is going to take all of us to help them. We will need to raise more money. It’s going to be a big a job but Drew would want nothing less of me. I feel this calling to branch out and I know Drew is the one that is pushing me. He has been with me every step of the way in this journey of Smiles. Every single time I have doubted the strength of myself or the ability to keep going with Smiles, Drew sends me a sign. I can picture him beaming that beautiful smile and telling me “Good job Mama but you’re not done”.
So if you know of children that fit this category email me. If you know someone who is a social worker or a contact that you think we should team up together email me. I know deep down this is the path we are supposed to be on and with everyone’s help we can get to those forgotten children and help them feel like a kid again, even if it’s only on the playing field for a little bit.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always message me on Facebook also. Help me grow Smiles and help these children. Much love to you and thank you so much for always supporting our mission.